Tuesday, 31 December 2013 15:13

Thomas Russell (Cork): Irish Heritage Hall Of Fame Inductee

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Thomas Russell - British Army Officer Hanged & Beheaded Fighting For Ireland's Cause In 1803

In 1783 Thomas Russell had a choice to make on his future career. He could follow his father into the Irish Anglican Church or choose an army career like his brothers. He chose the army and was posted to the Malabar Coast of India to safeguard British interests. He stayed in India for three years and decided to return to Ireland in 1786.

In Dublin he advanced his studies in philosophy, science and politics and in the course of his travels he met Theobald Wolfe Tone in July 1790 in the visitors gallery at the Irish House Of Commons, College Green, Dublin.

This historic meeting began a new political chapter in Thomas Russell’s life and later in 1790 he decided to renew his army career and was posted to Belfast. In the Northern capital he met Henry Joy McCracken, a man who supported the ideals of the French Revolution and believed Ireland should act similarly.

His new found Northern acquaintances found it difficult to comprehend the notion of a Corkman, an Anglican, and with a Brititish Military background, moving in their circles. They also had some difficulty discerning his Cork accent and amongst themselves Thomas was called  ‘ The Man From God Knows Where ’.

In July 1791 he left the army and soon after he was invited by Northern radicals  to attend a Belfast conference with Wolfe Tone to establish a new national party movement.

On October 18th 1791, the first ever meeting of the Society Of United Irishmen took place and Thomas Russell was one of the co - founders.

The new Society made gigantic leaps and was suppressed in 1794. Russell and other colleagues were soon rounded up and placed in Newgate Prison, Dublin. This denial of freedom prevented Thomas from taking part in the 1798 Rising.

By 1799 he was  moved to a Scottish prison until his release in June 1802. He was now also banned from going back to Ireland and spent nine months in exile. He  returned to Ireland in disguise and in May 1803 he was staying with the Bould Robert Emmet in Rathfarnham, Dublin.

Emmet was now planning a Rising at Dublin Castle which went horribly wrong and Emmet was soon arrested.

When Russell heard that his friend was arrested, he set out for Dublin city to aid Emmet and he too was arrested.

He was taken to Downpatrick Jail, Co. Down and accused of high treason and found guilty. He was hanged at the Jail gate and then beheaded.

The execution took place on 21st October 1803 neath a Northern sky far away from his native north Cork barony.

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 September 2020 11:10